Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Clegg, Steven

First Committee Member

Kirby, John R

Second Committee Member

McCarter, Linda L

Third Committee Member

Yahr, Timothy L

Fourth Committee Member

Winokur, Patricia L


Klebsiella pneumoniae is a Gram negative, enteric bacterium that frequently causes disease in immunocompromised individuals. These types of infections are often associated with the presence of indwelling medical devices, which provide a site for the organism to attach and subsequently form a biofilm. A key component in K. pneumoniae biofilm formation in vitro is type 3 fimbriae. The two main components of this project have been to determine if type 3 fimbriae are an in vivo virulence factor using a mouse model of catheter associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) and to examine the mechanism by which the production of type 3 fimbriae are regulated.

Using a mouse model in which a silicone tube is implanted into the bladder of mice, mimicking the effects of catheterization, we have been able to show that type 3 fimbriae are required for colonization and persistence. Using different time points and conditions, we demonstrated that there are conditions when type 3 fimbriae alone are sufficient for colonization and other conditions where both type 1 and type 3 fimbriae have unique roles in colonization and persistence. Additionally, competition experiments showed that neither fimbrial mutant alone, or a double mutant in type 1 and type 3 fimbriae could compete with wildtype K. pneumoniae. In most animals, only wild-type bacteria were recovered by 24 hours post-inoculation. This work reinforced the role of type 1 fimbriae in pathogenesis and showed, for the first time, a role for type 3 fimbriae using an in vivo model.

Our early work has indicated that type 3 fimbriae are regulated at least in part by the intracellular levels of the secondary messenger molecule cyclic di-GMP. Downstream from the type 3 fimbrial operon a gene encoding a phosphodiesterase is present; the product of this gene breaks down cyclic di-GMP. In the absence of this gene the levels of type 3 fimbrial expression are increased. Also adjacent to the mrk operon is a two-gene operon containing the determinants we have named mrkH and mrkI. mrkH encodes a PilZ domain containing protein, which we have shown binds cyclic di-GMP. Using a transcriptional fusion we have shown that the mrk gene promoter is activated modestly in the presence of MrkH, but when MrkH and MrkI are both present the activity is increased 100-fold. This has lead to the hypothesis that MrkH and MrkI interact, which we have been able to demonstrate using copurification procedures. This interaction appears to occur in a cyclic di-GMP dependent manner with the resulting protein complex binding to the mrk promoter region and activating the expression of type 3 fimbriae.


catheter associated urinary tract infection, cyclic di-GMP, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Type 3 fimbriae


xi, 110 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 100-110).


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Copyright © 2014 Caitlin Nolan Murphy

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